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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Bin Laden, Bush, Moore, Kerry, Sacco & Vanzetti 

Go see Farenheit 9/11. We saw it last night and it's quite an excellent film. Both Diane and I tried to view it through the eyes of someone who didn't already agree with the main points (and/or know most of the details explored), and we agreed that the movie does a great job of letting the facts speak for themselves. The IMDb notes that "After its official showing at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival the movie was given what has been called 'the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival.'"

I was going to just use that as a springboard for a discussion of the election (see "Kerry, Nader and Clinton" below), but then I stumbled onto Michael Moore Hates America, a new movie that uses the style and format of Roger & Me (ie, trying to get an interview with Moore) to show how hypcritical and deceptive Moore is, as well as how wonderful the country is. (I think I saw Dinesh D'Souza in the preview.)

In the interest of listening calmly to all sides of a discussion, I want to see this movie. I think everyone has something valid to say (whether or not they ever get around to saying it), and I like to give everyone a chance. I've made it clear in this space that I don't like some of Mike Moore's sleights of hand, even if I think they're relatively minor in light of the larger points he's making.

Then in the MMHA site's Links & FAQ section, I came across Bowling for Truth, Moore Lies, and MooreWatch, all very detailed and constantly-updated websites designed to refute Moore's work and deconstruct him as a person. (For instance, there's a new book called Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.) I also found farenheit fact.

Again, being someone supremely interested in fairness (and a proponent, after all, of sites like O'Reilly Watch), I took a good, long look. Most of the criticism is of the "Moore hates America" type, especially a quote Mike made about the insurgency:
The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.
While I don't agree with this statement (although it has a bit of merit), I think the larger issue is being ignored. Namely, Iraqi insurgents are not going to give up just because US-installed local government take over. They believe they're fighting for their sovereignty and self-determination (not to mention control over the resources under their soil), and this mess isn't going to get solved with airstrikes or assassinations, any more than the Palestinian/Israeli intifada will go away with massive military force.

Meanwhile, MooreWatch featured a review from a pro-Bush viewer who, after agreeing with the movie while it played and applauding when it finished, declares: "I was brainwashed for about four hours and then reality set in again. Other truths start to filter in. I remember who Michael Moore is: A stupid fat white man who has his head up his $%# and is full of &*%$."

There are some valid points on these sites. (The plaque under the bomber in Littleton, for instance, is more complex than Moore indicates in Columbine.) But whereas Mike's movies tend to be 10% shady with 90% excellent info and commentary, these sites are the exact opposite. I hate to dismiss anything like this outright, but I understand why most people don't bother even to listen to criticism -- it's so much easier to ignore those who disagree (especially when most of what they say is bollocks).

Philosophical Tangent

I think part of it has to do with the economy of language. I once heard (although now of course I can't find the quote) that when asked why he didn't say much at the Constitutional Convention, George Washington said: "When I spoke, I wanted to make sure it was something worth saying."

I try to make this the cornerstone of everything I say or write. I often spend hours researching and editing my blog posts, for instance, to guarantee that there's nothing on this page that might deserve the axe. Most writers, on the other hand, seem to think that the more that is said, the better for their argument.

In a way, this makes some limited sense. When confronted with an overwhelmingly long list of refutations to something you believe, it's tempting to think "Boy, I must have been mistaken." Or, the flipside, "This is all a big load," allows the critic to say (correctly) that you are unwilling to face the charge of dishonesty. So writing a whole lot stacks the deck in your favor. Those who call for absolute honesty as well as editorial brevity are, after all, in the minority.

Moving along...

Kerry, Nader and Clinton

The movie, obviously, sparked a conversation on the way home about the "Anyone But Bush" mentality felt by so many Americans. I posted the following comments this morning to a listserv, and figured they were worth posting here.

I voted for Nader in Florida in 2000, and I don't apologize for doing so. As I told my friends at the time, the percentage of voting-age population that didn't bother to show up on election day (in Florida, 49.4%) deserve the blame, not the 4% nationwide who voted Nader because they weren't satisfied with Gore's pathetic backpedaling, wobbliness, and mealy-mouthed QuasiRepublicanism.

I'm going to vote for Kerry this year, because I've seen just how evil and treacherous Bush can be. But I will not go along with the constant third-party-bashing that has been going on nonstop, especially here in Wisconsin -- a swing state.

Bush is evil and must go -- but let's not kid ourselves. I expect Kerry to be a lukewarmed version of Clinton. And although he fought (meekly) for some liberal social issues, what were the major achievements of the Clinton presidency?
  • Bombing a pharmeceutical plant in Sudan, leading to an unknown number of deaths -- estimates run to the tens of thousands.

  • Welfare "reform", about which I hopefully need not comment.

  • Missile strikes against Iraq on a seemingly ongoing basis.

  • Continued sanctions against Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said "the price is worth it."

  • Refusal to act in the face of renewed bloodshed and terror in East Timor (also an unknown number of deaths -- estimates range in the thousands). When asked if the US would pressure Indonesia to allow a peacekeeping force, Clinton's National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said: "My daughter has a very messy apartment up in college. Maybe I shouldn't intervene to have that cleaned up."
While there are significant differences between Bush and Kerry -- and I would rather have Kerry in office than Bush -- I will not allow the conservative forces (or the moderate/conservative forces rushing to be like them) to confine the discussion into an either/or false dichotomy.

Kerry is a step in the direction we need to go. A baby step, one only barely worth taking.

Sacco & Vanzetti

Including this in the post title is actually a reference to an old George Carlin routine where he played a fictional radio DJ. Sacco & Vanzetti were Italian activists who were executed on August 23, 1927, for murders they didn't commit.
The police trap they had fallen into had been set for a comrade of theirs, suspected primarily because he was a foreign-born radical. While neither Sacco nor Vanzetti had any previous criminal record, they were long recognized by the authorities and their communities as anarchist militants who had been extensively involved in labor strikes, political agitation, and antiwar propaganda and who had had several serious confrontations with the law.
So now you know.

Man, this is nuts. Who spends a day off researching and writing something like this? I thought I was going to work on La'o Hamutuk stuff and play video games.


Avatar High is a Flash version of The Sims. It might be interesting if you stuck with it. (Alas, I only played for a very short time.)

Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad! Hey, I just realized that they're (woop woop) listener supported.